Walmart’s Hunger Games

New report from Eat Drink Politics shows how the nation’s largest retailer is a poverty incubator, contributing to the hunger crisis in America while Walmart and the Walton family get richer

La’Randa Jackson, shown here, supports her mother and her younger brothers by working at the Walmart store in Cincinnati, Ohio. “I skip a lot of meals,” she says. “The most important thing is food for the babies, then my younger brothers. Then, if there’s enough, my mom and I eat.”

La’Randa works for the nation’s largest private employer, and she is not alone in her struggle to afford enough food.

On $10.10 an hour and an unpredictable part-time schedule, Cantare Davunt – a Walmart customer service manager from Apple Valley, Minnesota – winds up digging into her cabinets for older, non-perishable foods like Ramen so she can have a hot meal. Diana Tigon, a cashier at the Walmart store in Arlington, Texas, often finds she is strapped for cash and during rough weeks goes full days without eating meals.

These tragic stories are all too common among workers at America’s largest retailer, which enjoys $16 billion in annual profits. The Walton family, which owns Walmart, has assets valued at an obscene $150 billion.

My latest report shows the direct connection between the unfair working conditions that Walmart perpetuates and the key factors that contribute to hunger in America. For example, 88 percent of households receiving food bank assistance have incomes of less than $25,000 a year; as many as 825,000 Walmart workers are paid than $25,000 a year. Also, more than 57 percent of employed recipients of food assistance work part-time; there are an estimated 600,000 part-time workers at Walmart, though many want to work full-time.

Because Walmart workers must rely on federal assistance programs to fill in the gaps, American taxpayers are subsidizing the retailer’s business model of exploitation. One report from Americans for Tax Fairness estimated the cost to taxpayers of Walmart workers’ reliance on public assistance is $6.2 billion a year.

In a twisted closed loop system, Walmart is also the largest retailer for food stamp spending in the nation, capturing about 18 percent of all food stamp revenue, estimated at $13.5 billion. If Walmart paid its workers a living wage they wouldn’t need to rely on public assistance.

Walmart has the ability – more than any other business – to lift hundreds of thousands of working families out of poverty by improving jobs at its stores, which would, in turn, reduce hunger across the nation.

You can download the complete report here.

Thanks to Anna Lappe’ for inspiring the report’s title with her excellent 2013 article at TakePart.

38 Responses to “Walmart’s Hunger Games”

  1. al says:

    Awwwww, get a different job! I have a straw for you if you need one!

    • Disgruntled says:

      Why does this person need to get another job?
      They work 40 hours a week at a major store.
      The is so much demand for Walmart goods that the store stays open 24/7.

      • momma says:

        The article reads… part time job. That’s not 40 hours. Just saying.

        • Morticon says:

          You still should not have such sporadic hours on a part-time contract that you cannot afford to feed yourself, while your employers are sitting on 150 billion dollars. “Just saying.”

        • Linda says:

          Low-wage workers chasing around multiple low-wage jobs is not the answer to this problem. Also, a 40-hour work week at WalMart’s low wage scale will not solve this problem.

          • MA says:

            At $10.10 per hour, even working a steady 40 hours per week, she would likely be taking home less than $1500 per month (assuming standard deductions). Let’s say her rent is only half of that – $750/mo. That leaves about $25/day for *everything* else she needs to pay for: food, clothing, electricity, phone bill (’cause you can’t hold a job without a phone…), and that’s just the absolute bottom line essentials. It’s just not enough to support children on no matter how frugal she is. Minimum wage is really only suitable for employees who are claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, not for primary wage earners.

    • Morticon says:

      “Aww! Get a different job so the Waltons can continue squatting on 150 billion dollars a year while their workers are in Chinese factory conditions! Waaaaah!”

  2. Benzter says:

    I would go to a different Walmart because that one is screwing you.How fancy do you have to live.My wife works for Walmart and we are fine.She gets 40 hours a week and loves her job.She does say that there are alot of people who are lazy and dont want to work and that does include managers.She said those are the ones who get the least amount of hours.Just

    • Morticon says:

      Congratulations. That doesn’t nullify the fact that other workers have families that need to be fed and cannot do so on Wal-Mart’s part-time wages. “JUST SAYING LOL”

      • Leah says:

        What about the millions of people who are not married to someone who can provide health insurance for them, and a second income. That just is not reality for many people.

    • ML says:

      I would imagine your wife isn’t supporting a family. People don’t get it…there are single mothers working jobs like these. In this economy you cannot get a job easily. Minimum wage was supposed to be a livable wage. For some reason people can’t comprehend that but it’s a historical fact.

      • rd says:

        OK, this will be controversial. Why do women have children if they can’t afford to support them? Have all these single mothers not heard of birth control? If you don’t have a college education and a good job, forget having children.

        • unCommonSense says:

          I wonder how fast humans would go extinct if the requirement for procreation was a college education and “good job”

          FYI: This system is a false one. Now back on your hamster wheel.

          • ms.T says:

            People are so insensitive, you can’t say what circumstances are going to put one in a certain position in life. The haves can easily find the faults of the have nots. Whatever the circumstances are people need wages, hours and benefits. Big companies play with folk lives to keep their wealth. Selfishness and a court of law a situation could not be judging to that all the facts are placed for evidence. do not judge everyone the same. I do not work at Walmart I have a job that pays more than minimum wagebut there are times when I find myself struggling not because I’ve made a wrong decision but because life does that to you. Don’t judge everyone on the same basis it is unfair.

  3. I can read says:

    It actually says she works part time…just saying

  4. Let's be fair says:

    The author makes some stretching connections between some unrelated facts. Do we need to work on poverty and hunger in the U.S.? Sure we do. No arguement there. But the author makes reckless statements like “For example, 88 percent of households receiving food bank assistance have incomes of less than $25,000 a year; as many as 825,000 Walmart workers are paid than $25,000 a year”. This is really shameful because it implies that all part-time workers at WMT use foodbanks…which isn’t true. The reality is that WMT provides the lowest cost goods possible for those who happen to use gov’t assistance. Therefore, WMT actually saves the gov’t money and allows them to reach more people with fewer assistance dollars. That my freinds is a mathematical fact unlike the statements made in this article/report.

  5. westano says:

    What about McDonald’s low pay? Or Burger King? Or the car wash places? Yes, Wal-Mart is just evil for providing a high school graduate who has few skills an opportunity for growth in a job at all…

  6. Ck says:

    Being a former Walmart associate what most don’t know is they can work a part-time worker 40hours and not give them full time pay or benefits. They have a person work 38 hours.

  7. Ck says:

    Fyi only upper management makes a decent salary. I guess you got a smart comment for all the educated persons who can’t find jobs either.Get off your high horse and stop judging people or come out of your pockets and help. Everyone in this country who wasn’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth is going through some sort of struggle.

  8. Linn Hanson says:

    $10.10 a hour may not be a living wage, and Walmart probably should increase their wages, but it is a lot more than minimum wage, which a lot of retail workers are making. I would guess that more people work at mall jobs and other miscellaneous small employers than work at Walmart, for the same or less pay. To say that Walmart is the nation’s primary provider of food stamp clients is misleading because it is also a primary provider of jobs-whether they be living wage or not. As a whole, small employers could easily be a much larger provider of food stamp clients than Walmart.

  9. Sarah says:

    Its not just walmarts and other retailers low pay thats the problem but more that most retailers mostly hire part-time so they dont have to give them full-time benefits, the schedules are too variable from 10 hrs one week to 38 another, plus they all want open availability and rarely have consistency in the scheduling so they make it incredibly difficult to have another part-time job. Not all are like this but many are and to varying degrees. I worked at a large retailer where under one manager the scheduler was allowed to work with employees with their other jobs… Then a new manager came in and all the sudden everyone had to have open availability and purposefully had people scheduled at inconsistant times.

    The article is a little misleading but what articles arnt on websites like this and many others…

  10. Linda says:

    WalMart is the primary provider of low-wage jobs that shift the burden of employees being able to provide themselves & their families with adequate nourishment onto the US taxpayer. And it doesn’t end with food. US taxpayers also bear the burden of providing health care & housing to these employees of the nation’s largest employer.

    Yeah, thanks a lot, WalMart. How anyone can support that business model is a mystery indeed.

  11. rootsgal says:

    She did not ask for SPORADIC hours a-hole…thats what they do to get out of paying for any healthcare.
    WALMART is responsible for why so many need subsidies like food stamps.
    Greedy CEOS on their yachts, while workers are starving.
    Then, those that help feed them, get arrested…..welcome to AMERICA~

  12. Yvette says:

    Now what the heck is that girls mom doing not working and making the poor daughter support their entire family? And the babies? Who is their mom?

    This is sad, but the article does not tell an entire story here.

  13. pswstriker says:

    As one of the PSWs who went on strike last Christmas in Ontario Canada, I commend the Walmart workers for standing up for themselves. Stay strong and stay together. You can do this. My sister works at a Walmart here in Canada, we both support your efforts!

  14. shari says:

    I don’t see much difference between the way Walmart treats their employees vs many other corporations. These people have a job to go to. How many unemployed people can’t find a job at all. Many would love to ” lower” themselves to these standards. Yes Walmart could do better, but until they do their employees have the option of looking elsewhere.

  15. almay says:

    Walmart is so wealthy. Greed is a sin. They have only part time worker on crazy schedules that they can’t get another part job. Boycott Wal-Mart. Give the other stores the business. Then they will be able to hire more people. We all pay taxes people that are trying should be able to receive food stamps. Wal-Mart sucks!

  16. Samantha rose says:

    Both my husband and I work at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart pays on a grade-level scale which is based on job and performance. What they don’t talk about are the benefits Wal-Mart offers. 10% discount, 20% discount in December, school grants ($12,000) college credits, stock, and over $2,000 incentives for performance.

    I also work for BK. Who offers no benefits and I get paid more at Wal-Mart than at BK.

  17. Samantha rose says:

    I would also like to add that I have set schedule as does my husband

  18. concepts unlimited says:

    Your stated problem is two sided. You don’t make a living wage and with easy (business/wealthy individuals) credit, you never will. The government already limits the profits of the power industry, alcohol industry, and medical (medicade/medicare) industry.
    If mortgages were fixed at 7 – 10 years, car loans at 3 years, and wholesale use of credit cards halted, the economy would revert to ‘living wage’ scale of economies. Homes do not need to cost an average of 210k dollars. In fact the homes built today are built so poorly in comparison to 1940, that they will be unfit in less that 50 years of age. Basic transportation should go down in cost for similar reasons. You don’t NEED a vehicle that has anything that distracts your concentration, nor one that is so luxurious that you nod off going down the highway.
    Many WANT more than they can afford and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the US and most first world countries set you up to fail. You can never CREDIT your way through life. The same credit you are using, is the same credit that makes the Walton’s and all the other 1% richer. The adage, ‘you have to have money to make money’ applies here.
    Lastly, I don’t work for WMT, and I don’t particularly care for their business model that closed our Mom & Pop general retail store. However, I shop there because they are inexpensive for food, that the grocers in our area are unwilling to match. Evil WMT? No, those same grocers post profits of 8 – 17%. They CHOOSE not to compete.
    You CHOOSE to work at WMT, even though you are not happy with your treatment. Why? Are you not able to obtain a better job elsewhere? I assume not, or you would have done so. Therefore, WMT is the best for your individual situation. I am proud of you in staying where you are not happy to provide for your family. I could not work in such a place or in fast food or other equally horrible entry level jobs beyond a few months unless I had NO other choice. Responsibility falls on the individual. I was fortunate to be able to start another business that WMT did not compete with. I scaled back what I wanted in life and own my home, own my car, and still wish for things like other people. I just learned not to be a victim of easy credit.
    IF you want to HURT the Walton’s and all the other 1%’s out there, then stay home Black Friday. Shop local, help local. Take care of your family by taking care of your local family. Change comes by WAR, either military or economic. WMT stock drops, then RICH people will make the very changes you want. Not to help you, but to help themselves. You just happen to benefit as well. Good luck to you in your endeavors.

  19. rosebud1021 says:

    Everyone struggles and needs assistance!!! not just Walmart employees. Get a different job

  20. naomi says:

    I worked at a CVS Pharmacy as a pharm. tech and was only making 9 an hour. And I am a single mother of three kids. I could make it on that so I have a problem feeling sorry for these workers who make 10 an hour and can’t make it. (Oh and yes I am college educated you have to go to school to be a pharm. tech and I am in school right now for my bachelors)

  21. razorback013 says:

    You, the author and others like the author, are idiots. The Walton family does NOT own Walmart. Walmart is a public company owned by SHAREHOLDERS. Good luck with this one.
    Also, wages are dependent on the surrounding environment. For example, the Walmarts in parts of North Dakota start out at $17.50/hour because there’s a high demand for labor.
    it’s also important to note that the minimum wage isn’t designed to support a family. The point is so people have to develop skills and increase their knowledge so theg don’t have to work minimum wage jobs for their entire life.

  22. fN says:

    Does anyone else see the problem is that this woman only works a part-time $10/hr job, but it’s to support 6 people?!?!?

    The problem’s NOT the $10/hr job.

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